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Wednesday 30 November 2022

They Understand That's Why They Hate

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There are prominent teachers and Christian outlets publishing articles and other pieces telling Christians to be worried about being misunderstood and persecuted for those misunderstandings. They are even telling pastors to hide sermons, keep some truths for the members, and present a different face to the community. They are worried that the people of today will be enraged by Christian teachings they take the wrong way. 

But I think it is much more likely that Christians will be hated for what they are clearly understood to be saying, as was the case for Jesus himself:

"57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” (Matthew 26:57-68) 

In Semitic culture to claim to ride on the clouds of heaven was to claim the highest divinity. To a Jew this was the most clear claim to divinity Jesus could make. He was claiming to be the God of the Exodus who rode the cloud above his people. He was claiming to be the divine cloud riding Son of Man of Daniel's vision (Dan. 7:13-14). They knew what he was claiming and they were enraged by it. 

Our culture has different social rules and assumptions, but it has the same Spirit as those corrupt Jewish leaders who demanded the death of Jesus. Our modern society has a hatred for truth that undermines the power of modern cultural elites. Especially regarding sexulity, gender and faux-science. It will be knowingly breaking those rules and being understood that will get modern preachers, teachers and Christians in trouble.

Wickedness hates the light. Liars hate the truth. Light and truth are what most offends evil. It's good to want to explain yourself as well as you can. This is reasonable and rational. But if you proclaim truth in a society that hates the truth and is trained to hate it more each day, then that is what will provoke people to persecute you. 

A world that believes 2+2 = 5 can only persuade people of such a ridiculous lie by suppressing those who refuse to deny the real answer is 4.

So my encouragement is simple: continue to proclaim the truth publicly and prepare to be treated as Jesus was. He told us to expect it after all. By all means explain yourself well, but don't shy back from claiming offensive truths because people might misunderstand. By the grace of God, if you do, in the process you might even convince a few pagans or God haters like Peter and Paul did. 

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Egalitarianism Exposed

This is a very important video. Because in this video, one of the most radical egalitarians I know actually admits that equality is not workable, possible or reasonable.

Kyle is a passionate egalitarian atheist secularist, who is absolutely committed to egalitarianism in the West. Yet he has to admit its a non-workable philosophy.

You have to understand equality is an anti-Christian force. It was the rhetoric of the secularists for well over a century because it was useful to batter against the anti-egalitarian strictly hierarchical Christian faith. And it worked. It worked so well many Christians now preach as if equality was their idea.

But now that secularism reigns supreme in our culture egalitarianism is being redefined to suppress any competing philosophies, especially hierarchical religious philosophies. The goal was always the supremacy of the godless morality of the anti-Christ philosophy over Christendom and beyond. Now that the egalitarians are squarely in charge their rhetoric of equality is not as useful to them. They can now admit their desire for all competing ways of living to be diminished, if not suppressed. 

Kyle's argument is now common amongst secular leftists: "of course all cultures are not equal. Only our egalitarianism philosophy is the right kind of equal and all else must submit to it."

Watch the video. It's a remarkable admission.

(Note: Kyle's language is often rough, I don't endorse him or his views, he is just illustrative of how the radical left thinks). 

Monday 28 November 2022

Snakes In The Garden

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The main catch cry of the Church that sides with the world as persecution of Christians increases in Australia will not be: 

"We agree with the world on that particular matter of sexuality, science, medicine, or public policy, etc." 

It will be: 

"He deserved to be persecuted, because he didn't say it as I would say it" or "he decided to stand on an issue that I wouldn't have, so it's not really persecution, he made the rod for his own back."

The signs of this attitude are already there. In fact, it has already happened to the likes of Israel Folau and others. We see often in Australia when a person stands on the traditional bible teachings on sexuality, gender, government authority and more, that many conservative Christians are more interested in critiquing how those people stood, rather than defending them for standing. 

Prepare to see your brothers and sisters in the faith abandon you to take shelter under this concept: "This isn't the time and those aren't the right words." You'll likely see it happen to someone you know, maybe even to yourself.

They'll say, "Mate we agree with what you said, just not how, when, or why you said it. Therefore, you deserve to lose everything, it's your own fault."

"It's not time to stand" will be their motto, right up until the moment when there is nothing in the Bible that you'll be able to talk about without drawing heat. 

I am convinced that though some of this comes from a well-intentioned desire on behalf of certain teachers to do their best to explain the gospel and Bible well to people, that a lot of it comes from bad influences in the Church. Snakes in the Garden that want to do all that they can to stop you from making a bold stand. We were warned about such people rising up in the Church. You should not be surprised that they appear. 

If there is any time to stand on the controversial teachings of God's word publicly, it is now. It's only going to get harder, start preparing yourself to be ready to stand when it is harder to stand. Dropping out now, is only going to make it harder for you to know when to stand in the future, because you'll train yourself to hide the clear teaching form people out of fear of their offense. Just be bold. 

Sunday 27 November 2022

The Government Needs You


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Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. This is both a binding and loosing Christian principle. It binds you to honour God in whatever you do, but it gives you a lot of freedom about where to do it. 

Parliament needs people who will walk in there and live and work for the glory of God, above all else. I am not politically inclined myself, but there is something to be said about this, and the kind of people the government needs. 

So here is the talk I gave at a recent political conference:

“No council or magistrate should have it in their power to stop the public business of a city.”

We’ll come back to this.

The government needs you to be involved in the political process in some way. It needs bold, unashamed Christians to step up and make their voice heard in the political sphere, and today, I am going to explain one of the key reasons why.

The bible tells you and I that we should to aspire to the quiet life, 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.” This should be our goal. This should be our aspiration. To leave other people alone, taking care of our own business, as much as we can.

After he stepped down from the Presidency George Washington famously retired to his farm, removing himself from public life. A nation with true liberty requires a population who as much as possible want to leave other people alone, take care of their own business, not seek to dominate the affairs of others, work with their own hands, and leave others to do the same.

But there are two things we must note about this, 1) its an aspiration. It is something we should aspire to, not something we are commanded to always do, or told will always work out. 2) This world is often not happy to leave you alone. The last couple of years has proven this conclusively. That is not because the people of this world are bold, it is not because they are all inherently evil in every way, some of course are, but not all. A lot of people are not happy to leave you alone because they are afraid. They live in fear, they live in terror, and those who are driven by fear, fear of death, fear of being exposed, fear of all sorts of things, will seek to control others so they can calm their fears. Some people control out of a desire for dominance, but many because they live in fear.

I started by reading you something Niccolo Machiavelli said. Let’s look at it again: “No council or magistrate should have it in their power to stop the public business of a city.”

You know where he wrote this, in his book Discourses on Livy, where he reflects on one of the most famous histories of Rome, finished about a decade before Jesus was born. This is one of Machiavelli’s most important works, where he is reflecting on how to create a strong state, and in a strong state, this is what he tells us is required of its leaders:

“No council or magistrate should have it in their power to stop the public business of the city.”

How is that for remarkable, people in the 15th and 16th centuries were already writing about how dangerous it is to allow politicians and bureaucrats to have the power to shut down a city? If only we had political leaders in this country who were so bold. Machiavelli goes on to explain why;

“When Quintius Cincinnatus and Julius Mentus were Consuls of Rome, a disagreement arose between them, which caused an interruption of all the public business of the state. When this came to the knowledge of the Senate, they advised the creation of a Dictator, who might do what the discord between the Consuls had prevented them from doing. But the Consuls, disagreeing upon every other matter, agreed only in this one thing – not to appoint a Dictator. So that the Senate, having no alternative, had recourse to the assistance of the Tribunes, who together with the Senate forced the Consuls to obedience. Whence we should note, in the first instance, the usefulness of the tribunate, which served not only to restrain the violence of the nobles against the people, but also against each other; and, secondly, that the institutions of a city never should place it in the power of a few to interrupt all the important business of the republic.”

The details of this discord and disturbance don’t matter. The summary does: two men, with powerful ambitions, used their power to stop the public business of the republic, for their own ends. It does not matter what those ends were. It does not matter how they came to this decision. What matters is that they had the power and what also matters is the devastating effect shutting down the public business of the city has on everyone.

Machiavelli’s reflection is pretty simple: this must not be allowed, this is evil, this is terrible, no public official should have this power, what’s more, is they should be made to perform their duty or step down, as he continues;  

“For instance, if you give to a council authority to distribute honors and offices, or devolve upon any magistracy the administration of the certain business, it is proper to impose upon them either the necessity of doing it under all circumstances, or to provide that, in case of their not doing it themselves, it can and shall be done by someone else; otherwise, the constitution would be defective upon this point, and likely to involve the state in great dangers, as we have seen would have been the case in Rome, if they could not have opposed the authority of the Tribunes to the obstinacy of the Consuls.”

If you are going to allow any part of your government to run a public service or business for your society, then accompanying this provision should be another provision saying that under no circumstances should they shut down this public business. If they feel they cannot fulfil the duty, then they should step aside and let someone who is not afraid to run the office.

Do you think Machiavelli did not know what a plague was? Of course he did. Plague was a constant threat in his era, in fact in the 15th century a famous airborne plague went through his own Republic, Florence.[i] But he, and wiser men, knew that if you were going to maintain your civilisation you must have people running it who are not afraid to turn up to run the office, otherwise you are “likely to involve the state in great dangers”.  

You cannot allow the government the power to run schools, hospitals, in home care, charities for the poor, construction services, pothole services, cancer screenings and more, and then give them the right to shut these down by some declared power. Because if they have the power to do so they will do it, especially if they are fearful people, and the effects will be devastating: everything from missed cancer diagnosis’, a fatal error, through to supply chains issues, or roads not being serviceable and more. Society will fracture in untold ways, and the longer it goes on, the worse it will get. Now we have inflation pricing people out of homes and into tents, because of decisions made by fearful men and women during the last two years. Machiavelli was right.

If they have the power in one part of the constitution to shut down the entire public business of the city, then they can undermine the entire constitution because it is defective on that point…sound familiar? Machiavelli warned us. He actually warned about this.

So what can be done?

In the republic of Venice the Grand Council distributed the honors and the offices; it happened several times that this body, from discontent or some erroneous suggestions, did not appoint successors to the magistrates of the city or of the provinces. This caused the greatest possible disorders, for all of a sudden both the city and its subjects provinces lacked their legitimate judges; nor could they obtain anything if the majority of the council was not either satisfied or deceived. And this inconvenience would have led to the worst consequences for the city, if the prudent citizens had not provided against it, by availing of the first convenient occasion to make a law that all the public functionaries in the city and in the provinces should never vacate their offices until their successors had been elected and were ready to fill their places. And thus they deprived the Grand Council of the power to expose the republic to the great dangers by arresting all public business.”[ii]

Only one thing can be done, good men and good women need to assert their political power to make sure that the politicians cannot lock the city down again. What solved this issue and protected the city of Venice from facing worse trouble was “the prudent citizens” taking the first possible occasion to change the law to protect their city and their state from ever facing such a danger again.

What did Rome, what did Venice and what did Florence, the Republic that Machiavelli was a part of, need to protect their states from being shut down? Prudent citizens.

We cannot expect the people of this world to be prudent citizens. I have been a pastor for over 11 years, and I was in Bible College before that, I was involved in apologetics, street evangelism, online evangelism, discussion boards, and so much more. One of the most common arguments that I used to hear from both atheists and some well-meaning Christians is that you don’t need to be a Christian to be good. You don’t need to believe in God to be good. People said this a lot.

In my experience, no one says this anymore. You know that they say now? Christians are wrong about what is good.

In the last decade people have gone from saying, “You don’t need God to be good”, to “if you believe in God you are probably evil, especially if you take his word to be true.” That’s how far our society has changed. That is how far it has fallen in such a short time.

But a people disconnected from God, and increasingly so, is a people that can only be given more and more over to fear and manipulation. That which you fear will control you, and there are many nefarious forces in the media and in governments who understand this about humanity. They have even admitted in certain contexts that is what they did,

“Scientists on a committee that encouraged the use of fear to control people’s behaviour during the Covid pandemic have admitted its work was “unethical” and “totalitarian”.

Members of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B) expressed regret about the tactics in a new book about the role of psychology in the Government’s Covid-19 response.”[iii]  

That is why our government needs people like you. People who fear God and God alone. That which we fear, will control us, which is why Jesus tells us, Matthew 10:28 – “28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Our government needs prudent people, people who know that no matter what happens on earth, if they believe in God they have a reward in heaven, and because of this they are not afraid to do the right thing. People who at the first opportunity can make sure laws are passed that forbid the government from having this power again.

It is arrogant for any one man, or group of men and women, to think they can micromanage the daily lives of a city, state, or nation. They cannot do it, they will cause all sorts of unforeseen problems and consequences. But driven by their fear many people will think they can do it and should do it and are right to do it. A strong state, a strong government, that can protect liberty, needs people who are not afraid of the things of this world. It needs people who are not afraid to stare down tyrants and say: “that is wrong.”

Machiavelli warned us about how giving politicians the power to shut down the public business would cause all sorts of dangers for a people and their nation. But we ignored him…or did we? Maybe the wrong people read this and took his advice the wrong way. After all, they don’t refer to many powerful people as Machiavellian for no reason. But how could we ever know this?

What we do know is this: your government needs you because your nation needs you. And your nation needs people whose hope is in an eternal reward and therefore do not fear the powerful of this world.  

Consider this line one more time, “And this inconvenience would have led to the worst consequences for the city, if the prudent citizens had not provided against it, by availing of the first convenient occasion to make a law…” ensuring this never happened again. It’s up to you.

[ii] Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy, Castlia House, (pp123-124). All the unnoted quotes are from this same source. 

Saturday 26 November 2022

Bow Before The Son

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I spoke at a political Christian conference today. It's not something I would have done two years ago, but the massive overreach of the government into peoples lives in the last two years has driven many people like myself to the conclusion that good people need to get involved in the process at some level. 

You can't leave it all to the pagans and complain when they rule like pagans. My message was simple: the government needs Christians who fear God alone and not man. But we should never forget, still, how God looks down on human machinations for power:

"1 Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him" (Psalm 2). 

Ultimately our meagre efforts will not defeat evil. That will not happen until the son returns and establishes his father's kingdom.

Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 

Until then let's just do our part to see his will done on earth, as we can in our homes, workplaces, and society, according to our abilities. And do all we can to point people to Jesus, the King, who is coming one day soon. 

Friday 25 November 2022

He's Close To The Kingdom

Christians are enamored with the "close to the kingdom" types. They are drawn in by them, fascinated by them. A lot of people make much of Nicodemus being a "close to the kingdom" type in the Bible. But are we supposed to see his coming to Jesus in the night in a favourable light? 

After reading Jeremiah 38 again, I can't see Nicodemus as a good guy anymore in this passage. But a coward, who was happy to come at night, but not happy to openly associate with Jesus. Now this does change, and we will get to that, but the striking similarity between what Nicodemus did and what Zedekiah did jumped out at me as I reading Jeremiah this week. We read in Jeremiah 38: 

"14 King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and received him at the third entrance of the temple of the Lord. The king said to Jeremiah, “I will ask you a question; hide nothing from me.” 15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I tell you, will you not surely put me to death? And if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me.” 16 Then King Zedekiah swore secretly to Jeremiah, “As the Lord lives, who made our souls, I will not put you to death or deliver you into the hand of these men who seek your life.”

17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. 18 But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.” 19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest I be handed over to them and they deal cruelly with me.” 20 Jeremiah said, “You shall not be given to them. Obey now the voice of the Lord in what I say to you, and it shall be well with you, and your life shall be spared." 

It is striking that Zedekiah is his most open and his most inquisitive just before he is punished. Because in chapter 39 we see he ignored Jeremiah's command, gave in to his fear, hid what he spoke to Jeremiah about and then faces the punishment Jeremiah prophesied would happen. The man who refused to see the truth Jeremiah spoke and act on it, is forever blinded and cast into a Babylonian jail.  

While not a king, Nicodemus is a ruler among his people, and we see John presents him initially in much the same way that Jeremiah presents Zedekiah in this passage: John 3:1-2 - "1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 

Because of how Nicodemus turns out later in John 7 and especially John 19, it is common for people to read his encounter with Jesus in a positive light. But his coming to Jesus at night shows he was cowardly and afraid of doing the right thing. He is poised to become another Zedekiah figure. But he doesn't, he eventually changes sides and publicly comes and aids with the burial of the Lord Jesus, choosing to stand with the man condemned by the Jewish leaders: 

John 19:38-42 - "38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there." 

But the notable point is that Nicodemus was not yet a good guy. He would become St. Nicodemus eventually, but not until he publicly identified with Jesus. This is key for the believer, this public identification for Jesus. This should impact how we conduct ourselves and the people we seek to lift up as great leaders. 

Christians are obsessed with the Nicodemus figures of the modern world, people that they see as "close to the kingdom" forgetting that Nicodemus was originally a Zedekiah figure, and he had a choice: choose fear and remain hidden and face judgement like Zedekiah. Or be bold and be willing to be accounted with the Lord Jesus despite the views of the Jews who hated him. 

It is clear this fear overrode Zedekiah, "19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest I be handed over to them and they deal cruelly with me.” And it is clear that Nicodemus was at first ruled by the same fear. It is not until he overcomes this fear that he becomes a man of note in the gospels. 

For some people this is a process, this is a journey. But we should not be enamored with those who are publicly choosing the side of Zedekiah or John 3 Nicodemus, they are not close to the kingdom, they are choosing fear until they are not. We should be seeking to follow and emulate those who boldly stand with Jesus and accept the exclusion that comes with that. 

"He's close to the kingdom" is a game that many play to deceive believers, and it works because Christians are desperate for any kind of mainstream approval in our Christian world. I think it is important that Nicodemus, as one who long gave in to fear, only plays a minor role in the gospels, which is in contrast to many who stood much more boldly and were commended by Jesus himself. 

Just remember that Zedekiah's are as common, if not much more common, than the Nicodemus', and neither is a model of discipleship in the way that Peter, James, John and others were, who were willing to lose it all to be identified with Jesus. Nicodemus may have eventually become that, but that is because he learnt from the disciples, not the other way around. 


Thursday 24 November 2022

Why Doesn’t The Bible Condemn Slavery More?

You can watch the full video sermon here.


Last week we saw how the Biblical family structure helps us take down the Devil’s influence. We saw something very clear: an army that is unified in its purpose, and where its soldiers focus on fulfilling their proper roles, will more than likely succeed. It is just a matter of getting everything where it needs to be. As long as nothing interrupts that process, then the army can do what it does. But it all hinges on people fulfilling their proper roles. The Bible tells us that the Church is part of God’s spiritual army against darkness in this world, and how we structure the family matters, men are to provide, women are to manage the home. But because the roles of men and women have been confused by many Christians, the church has lost a lot of ground in our culture, and the enemy has overtaken it.

But telling women to submit to their husbands, and live under their authority and provision, is incredibly unpopular in our culture today. The 19th century feminists said Christian marriage was slavery, “So long as woman is crushed into a slave, so long will man be narrowed into a despot.”[i] “Why is it that one-half the people of this nation are held in abject dependence—civilly, politically, socially, the slaves of man? Simply because woman knows not her power.”[ii] So because of their view, the 19th century feminists lobbied to get the vote, so they could get the vote and then turn around and use that vote to ask for welfare to live apart from men. In other word’s they replaced their husbands with the government; they made the government their provider instead.

To this day one of the primary concerns with modern democratic elections is how much welfare the political parties will provide for women, so that these women will not be dependent on men. Whether it is welfare through money, quotas, abortion or other means, women replaced being provided for by their men with being provided for by their political representatives, giving the government more direct power over their lives. The question I want to ask is this: who is more free? The woman who serves her husband, or the woman who serves her boss, and needs the government to provide a quota for her to get that job, welfare to supplement her income, and subsidized childcare to help her put in the hours in at the office? Who is more free? Feminism is the idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they serve their husband and their children. But who is really more free?

I ask this, because today we are going to talk about actual slavery, and biblical marriage is often regarded as slavery by radical leftists, and even a lot of Christians, so I am going to address this in the context of addressing slavery.

Slavery in general is an issue that is more complex than most people will admit, because the Bible never once outright condemns slavery, yet we Christians, and most other westerners rightly condemn slavery. So, is the Bible at odds with what is right? Is Biblical marriage slavery? What does the Bible say about slavery? Let’s examine this issue in some detail, beginning with Titus 2:9-10, and seek to answer these questions in the process of answering this question: why doesn’t the Bible condemn slavery more?

Slaves Obey Your Masters (vv.9-10) – Paul’s command in Titus is pretty simple, “9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” This passage, like last week, is not a complicated passage or a difficult passage to understand. But it is hard to accept, because it doesn’t sit very well with so much of how we think and live today.

Perhaps the most common way this sort of passage is applied, is by transferring the advice given to bondservants to modern employees and simply saying: work for your boss, as if you are working for God.

This is a valid application, because in Paul’s day much of the labour market for many roles in society, from basic household servants up to doctors, lawyers and other skilled workers were heavily made up by slaves.

“At the height of the Roman Empire, it is estimated that nearly 40% of the population of Italy consisted of slaves.”[iii] And maybe between 10-20% of the whole empire’s population.[iv] Some of these slaves were uneducated barbarians captured in war, but others would have been highly educated Greeks captured in war, or bankrupt citizens who sold themselves into slavery to pay off their debts. Greek slaves were especially sought after, and skilled slaves brought a much higher price.  

If you have seen Ben Hur, you can imagine how even great men or women became slaves, simply because they upset the wrong Roman man of power. The Roman economy was completely reliant on slavery. Almost no one questioned slavery and slaves largely tolerated it. Even those slaves who rebelled against it, often did not do so because they hated the idea of slavery, they just hated the idea of not being masters.

But before we discuss this anymore, I want to do a bit of a survey of what the Bible teaches about slavery. Because I think if we can grasp the scope of its teaching, this might give us some powerful insight into what God has done for us, and what he expects of us on this issue.  

Made Free (Gen. 1-2) – Humanity was created to be free. In fact, more than that, humanity, male and female, was created to rule over the World in partnership with each other, Genesis 1:26-28 says, “26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Humanity was created for dominion, not dominion over each other, but dominion over all the earth and its creatures, whether walking, flying or swimming. Mankind was created to be the kings and queens of creation. But does this mean everyone was equal, and the same in role? No.  

In this context of perfect dominion, women were still under their husbands authority, or, more specifically, Adam had authority over Eve. We know this, because Adam had the authority from God to name Eve: Genesis 2:22-25 - “22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” The one who is in charge has the authority to name. This is why in Christian marriage the wife takes her husband’s name, why children are named by their parents, and why there is conflict in our society over naming all sorts of things, because naming is an act of authority.

To highlight how God held the man responsible, God also came to the man after the fall because it was the man whom he held in primary responsibility, as Paul says, “12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—” (Rom. 5:12).

Therefore, the wife was still supposed to submit to her husband, and be his helper, before the fall. Yet humans were not created to be slaves, but to be free and to rule. Hence the feminists are not correct to say that biblical marriage, where a man leads his wife, is slavery. Husbands leading their wives is part of God’s good design. Slavery is a corruption of God’s good world, an invading force.

Slavery did not exist until the evil one, the devil, defeated humanity and conquered the world, becoming the god of this age: Genesis 3:1-2 - “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

When the Devil defeated Adam and Eve, he usurped the rulership of this world, and humanity became enslaved to his evil, or as Acts 26:18 says, humanity was put under “the power of Satan.” Satan captured humanity and enslaved it to his will, 2 Timothy 2:26, “and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

Slavery is the devil’s work, emanating through a world ruled by his evil beings. As the Devil enslaves humanity to his will, so to do slave-masters enslave others to their wills. In other words, slavery is a result of the fall. The desire for one man to utterly dominate another man finds its seed in the influence of the evil one over his domination of creation. Perpetuators of slavery are like little devils.

Slavery is a reality, then, of our fallen world. Even the flood could not wipe it out fully, because ultimately slavery comes from the desire of a man to rule over and dominate his fellow man. It is the image of the beast rising up to replace the image of God in man. Slavery is a reality that needs to be dealt with in this world, and it finds its expression in many forms.

Slavery In The Old Testament – One of the most uncomfortable truths for modern Christians, is that the Old Testament does not condemn slavery…or does it? The Bible is not an idealistic book, it is a realistic book, and it presents its characters in the reality of the world they are in, and shows how God is slowly redeeming and transforming humanity.

Significant figures in the Bible have slaves. Abraham had slaves for example, and this provides the foundation for an important part of the Bible’s account. Abraham’s slave girl, Hagar, becomes the mother of his first child, Ishmael.

But, just because Hagar is a slave, this does not mean God has no regard for her, because as he says, Genesis 21:13 – “And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” Though Ishmael is not the son of the promise, still God intends to make a great nation of him because he is Abraham’s son. God considers greatly the station of the lowly slave.

So great men of the Bible have slaves. But God considers the condition of those slaves.  

Slavery is seen as tragic. There is a clear recognition even in the Old Testament that slavery is a terrible and tragic thing. Because Hagar is a slave she is powerless and easily abandoned, without remorse by Sarai. When Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers to Ishmaelite traders, it is framed as a tragic crime, that they need to cover up. Genesis 37:29-32 - “29 When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes 30 and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?” 31 Then they took Joseph's robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son's robe or not.” This event is a tragedy. It is a tragedy that has ramifications across the generations as well. It eventually leads to the whole nation of the Hebrews finding themselves in slavery.

The slavery of the Israelites in Egypt is central to the plot of the Old Testament. The entire salvation narrative of the Old Testament looks to the Exodus where they were saved from slavery, “17 You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge, 18 but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.” (Deut. 24:17-18). Pharoah represents a type of the evil one, who holds God’s people in thrall and must be defeated. God redeemed his people from literal slavery.

So, slavery exists, but the Bible recognizes from the beginning its evil nature. Slavery is not a good thing, it is not a desired thing.

Yet It Was Allowed – The law allowed for slavery in ancient Israel, Deuteronomy 15:12-18 – “12 If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13 And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. 14 You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. 16 But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he is well-off with you, 17 then you shall take an awl, and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your slave forever. And to your female slave you shall do the same. 18 It shall not seem hard to you when you let him go free from you, for at half the cost of a hired worker he has served you six years. So the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do.”

Israelite law allowed a Hebrew to sell himself into slavery, to pay off his debts. But this slavery was not to be permanent unless the slave wanted it to be. In the seventh year, the slave was to be given the chance to go free with a great abundance of possessions, just as the Israelites had when they came out of Egypt.

This might sound like a retrogressive law, but remember, our law says that an indebted person who goes bankrupt can lose everything, and still come out the other side with debt. This law enabled the poor person to be looked after, pay off their debt, and then come out with abundance at the end of their indentured servitude.

All of the Old Testament laws about slavery were designed to restrain the practice, and stop the masters from being cruel. But it also functioned as a kind of welfare where people could pay off their debts.  

The Heart of Slavery – The Old Testament condemned the heart of slavery, “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death” (Ex. 21:16). The Old Testament, unlike virtually any other ancient law code, outlawed the slave trade’s primary engine: the theft of human beings for sale.

Long before Americans bought slaves from African slave lords to work their cotton fields, the Ishmaelites and others were trading slaves to Egypt and beyond. Long before our modern anti-slavery laws, the Bible condemned the sale of stolen human beings. Biblical slavery was a means of paying off debt, not an engine for conquest and dominance, which is how most ancient peoples thought of it, though they also used it to pay of debts.   

So, what about the New Testament?

The New Testament – Just like the Old Testament, the New Testament does not condemn slavery. This is uncomfortable, but let’s consider for a moment what the New Testament actually says.  

Jesus acknowledged the existence of slaves, and structured many of his parables and teachings around the reality of their lives, “24 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:24-25).

Matthew 13:27-28 – “27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’”

The word used here, and in many others passages, is doulos, which means a servant who is a slave. Jesus acknowledges slavery without blushing.

Paul even convinced a youth, Onesimus, to go back to his slave-master, Philemon 1:12-16 - “12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”

So, Jesus recognized the existence of slavery, Paul encouraged a slave to go home, and he also commands slaves to obey their masters. If this is the case, how did we get to a position where slavery is rightly condemned by Christians? How did we get to a situation where Christians fought to end slavery across the world? What happened?

Redemption - The answer is simple, because we serve a Lord and Master, who made himself a slave on our behalf, to redeem all who would believe in him, Mark 10:43-45 – “43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Crucifixion was a slaves death, citizens were often killed by beheading. Jesus became a slave, literally, the Jews were nothing more than slaves under the Romans, so that he could redeem humanity from sin, death and the devil.

This had a profound impact on how the Church viewed slaves, as we saw in Philemon, Paul is, already early in Church history, telling a Christian slave master to receive his slave back as a brother, instead. But we also see that Paul was willing to put his own money on the line to obtain relief for Onesimus: Philemon 1:17-19, “17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.”

Though the New Testament did not say Christians could not own slaves, it does condemn manstealing (1 Tim. 1:10, as with the Old Testament), and as Christianity spread through the empire, Christians looked at their Christian slaves and thought, how can I be so arrogant as to own another man or woman, who is owned by Christ just as I am. After all, Paul says this, “19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

This idea that the believer is bought with a price, the blood of Christ, started to impact Christians, who realized they should not have authority over the body of another person that belonged to Jesus.

Paul directly relates this idea to slavery himself, 1 Corinthians 7:22-24 - “22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”

If the believer’s body is bought with a price? Then how can one Christian claim ownership of another Christians body? How can we claim to own that which is not ours, but is Christs? Christians who were free were to resist becoming the slaves of men. Because those men have no authority over their bodies.  

More than that, Jesus became a slave so that he could ransom people from the power and slavery of the devil. Slavery originates with the devil’s enslavement of humanity. If we are going to be like our Lord, should we not seek to redeem people from slavery too?

This is why the early Church started redeeming people from slavery. This is why they nearly abolished slavery in Christendom in the medieval era.

Redemption, what Jesus did for us, became what Christians did for others. It became part of Christian culture to purchase slaves out of bondage, because you can’t get a more Christlike act than this? Because of Christian charity, this ended up having an effect on unbelievers as well.

Our Passage -  So, if we come back to our passage for today, we can see that Paul is asking nothing of the slaves in this passage, that Jesus did not do himself, Titus 2:9-10, “9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.”

The reason today in the West that we speak of employees not servants or slaves, is very simple: Christians came to realize that if we are going to be redeemed by Christ, we should live as Christ did, and do what we can to make sure that no one tries to take control of another person’s body. They have no right to touch that which is God’s not theirs.

But this also means, if Paul expected slaves to obey their masters, how much more should Christians be good employees for their bosses. This does apply to all of us who work, because we do not work for man alone, but also for God.

This is encouraging, because it shows us that one of the ways we can extend the kingdom of God is by simply being a pleasing, honest, and hard-working employee. We can do this knowing that because of the God who became a slave for us, we do not have to live as slaves today.

The boss has no right to ask you to sin, and no right to abuse your body, but they have every right to be obeyed in that which is righteous and honest work.  

So why doesn’t the Bible condemn slavery more? Because the Lord and Master of this universe undermined it in a much more powerful way, he used his slavery to become the saviour of all, redeeming us from the bondage of evil, and he created a people, his Church, who then lived this out as well.

Conclusion – Slavery is still here today. There are more slaves in the world then there were in Wilberforce’s day, many countries still allow it, even encourage it. In the West in recent years governments have sought to try and reverse the work of the Church and claim ownership over people’s bodies again. As Christians we must do what we can to oppose these efforts, because we should leave at least as good a legacy to our descendants, as our Christian ancestors left for us. We serve a Lord who redeemed all who believe in him from slavery. Let’s be a redeeming people who undermine slavery everywhere we see it, as well. Let’s pray.


[i] Stanton, Elizabeth Cady; Anthony, Susan B.; Gage, Matilda; Blatch, Harriot Stanton; Harper, Ida H.. The Complete History of the Suffragette Movement - All 6 Books in One Edition): The Battle for the Equal Rights: 1848-1922 (pp. 877-878). Musaicum Books. Kindle Edition.

[ii] Stanton, Elizabeth Cady; Anthony, Susan B.; Gage, Matilda; Blatch, Harriot Stanton; Harper, Ida H.. The Complete History of the Suffragette Movement - All 6 Books in One Edition): The Battle for the Equal Rights: 1848-1922 (p. 1023). Musaicum Books. Kindle Edition.



Wednesday 23 November 2022

YOLO? Really?

Image: Unsplash

With economists like this, Australia's economic behaviour makes much more sense. 

"I, for one, am choosing to ring out 2022 with a committed YOLO (“You only live once”) mindset. That’s despite the rather worrying prospect of my home loan interest rate roughly tripling mid-next year, which is set to whisk away my entire current cash flow surplus each month.

I am not alone.

An extraordinary number of Australians are about to suffer severe “mortgage shock” in 2023 as they roll off ultra-low fixed interest rate loans, often secured at sub-2 per cent rates during the height of the pandemic...

...The risk for the RBA is that those of us who fixed are acting as if we are much more immune to the message the bank is trying to send, namely to stop spending so much and adding to inflation.

We are perhaps acting more like our American cousins, of whom about 90 per cent are on fixed interest loans at terms of 30 years – making them far more sanguine about the US Fed’s aggressive rate hike campaign.

Unlike our American friends, however, Aussie borrowers will soon be hit with a giant “fiscal cliff” as fixed terms end. Around two-thirds of existing fixed-rate loans are set to expire over the course of 2023 (with a lucky third having fixed until 2024 or beyond)."

The Australian peoples spending behaviour is sending the message that people think these interest hikes are just a temporary speedbump. There appears to be no recognition that the days of tradies driving $80,000 ute's and $20,000 trailers to tow their tools to work, or couples eating out every weekend, or spending top dollar on entertainment, holidays and household gadgets is quickly coming to an end. 

Australians have become addicted to an easy lifestyle and an ever increasing economic prosperity that has seen people live far above their means for sometime now. People think there will always be economic growth and increasing wealth. And they are not hearing the message: those days are over. 

Maybe they are not fully over, maybe this is just a temporary lull. Who can predict the future right? But the RBA doesn't hike rates so quickly to such a high rate for no reason, the Covid stimulus created a bubble, and they are desperately seeking to retract it before it pops suddenly. Because if, and I think when, it pops, it's going to hit big debt spenders hard. 

But with economists who say in the face of this: YOLO, it's no wonder Australians can't stop living large. Even the experts are living life like the good times will never end. And implying other Aussies should too. 

I find this fascinating. I think Australians are in for a rude shock soon. Fixed interest rates are about to expire, immigration is being ramped up, giving Aussie wealth to more foreigners and driving costs of living up further, and war is building on the horizon. But the economic experts are just saying, screw it, enjoy it while you can, YOLO. The wonder. 

Hard times are ahead, prepare. 

Excuse For Sin?

Image: Unsplash

God must be starting to feel about his Australian Church much like he did about Sodom or Jeroboam's Israel, and Manasseh's Judah. Because prominent Church leaders and teachers are increasingly promoting the acceptance of sin:

"On November 12, the NSW/ACT Baptists voted in favour of a motion to require all of its ministers and member churches to affirm a Biblical perspective of marriage. Churches not in agreement will not be able to remain in the union. (I am thankful that my own state denomination had the wisdom and foresight to affirm such a position in 2018). 

What interested me, in particular, were the responses from several Baptist academics in NSW/ACT that endeavoured to frame the issue as a matter of conscience or a non-core issue. This is evident in Erin Martine Sessions’ opinion piece for the ABC in which she writes:

So, if the Baptist Association of New South Wales and the ACT wants to disaccredit me for thinking, for dissenting over category errors and logical fallacies, over eschewing history and Baptist identity, over a reductionistic view of marriage, for exercising freedom of conscience, thought, and interpretation, then they can pry my accreditation from my cold, dead hands. People were burnt at the stake and drowned in lakes for Baptist beliefs and practices. Maybe next time we vote, we can at least do them the honour of remembering what it means to be Baptist.

This reframing of marriage to a second-order matter is also evident in Michael Frost’s blog post on the subject:

But instead of rallying to fulfill these bold visions for Christian mission, we’re debating the ins and outs of how to expel a tiny number of churches that don’t agree with the majority on yet another non-core issue."

Marriage a non-core issue? Marriage is integral to creation, it is integral to the propagation and flourishing of the human race. And more importantly it speaks to the heart of the gospel itself: 

"22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Eph. 5:22-33). 

The mystery of marriage speaks directly to the relationship between Christ and the Church. The Church is the bride of Christ, this is core, basic, orthodox Christianity, it is a sacred union. To deny this is to deny an important element of creation and Christianity.

As Tim notes in the article, early Baptists never envisioned marriage as among the disputable, non-core issues. They consistently affirmed the States authority to regulate marriage, adultery, fornication and more, because according to their reading of Romans 13 the state has the authority to punish according to the second tablet of the law. 

If the state has the authority to punish adultery, how much more important is it for the Church to uphold the sacred relationship of marriage between a man and a woman? It's vital. Both the state and the Church have no right to redefine marriage or allow for the denigration of marriage, both are servants of God to ensure his teaching is upheld. 

To abuse liberty of conscience as a permission for churches to promote sin, is an egregious abuse of a beautiful Christian doctrine. It's the logic of Sodom, the sin of Jeroboam and needs to be challenged.